Special Reports

Alpha raid Part I: Search in Wahid Huzayran is not like the movies

Barking dogs set off a chain reaction through the still night air in south Kirkuk last week as Humvees and police SUVs drove into the Wahid Huzayran neighborhood to raid insurgent hideouts.

An Iraqi SWAT team, Army Special Forces and Alpha Company, 2-116th soldiers were there to grab murderers, rapists and terrorists.It would be a stretch to call the raid stealthy. The dogs could be heard from blocks away.

A line of diesel Humvees rumbled through the neighborhood and Iraqi police wearing camouflage uniforms, black knit face masks and carrying AK-47s surrounded the first house. U.S. soldiers wearing night-vision goggles fanned out to protect the others raiding the house.

The raid wasn't like in the movies. No silent creeping in the shadows, hand signals, scaling walls or rappelling from rooftops. Iraqi police used a battering ram to smash a metal gate leading into the house's courtyard. Police and Special Forces soldiers stormed the house, shouting in Iraqi and English. It wasn't language you would use around your mother.

The raid was shock and awe at ground level. No tanks or air strikes, just a sudden, loud, violent assault of heavily armed men rushing through a house.

In Kirkuk's insurgency war, the front line battles are usually night raids on terrorist hideouts. They are rare, face-to-face encounters between foes, and a chance for U.S. soldiers to play offense instead of reacting to random rocket or IED attacks.

Within a couple minutes of storming the house, an Iraqi policeman emerged on the roof and signaled all clear. They walked suspects, handcuffed and blindfolded, out of the house and put them in back of a police pickup.

Other cops and soldiers searched the house for weapons, insurgent propaganda and other evidence, like videotapes or DVDs (insurgents have a habit of filming their attacks).

"We go into the house to make sure they (Iraqi police) don't destroy it," 1st Lt. Jason Gracida of Meridian said.

The targets of Monday's raid weren't unemployed Kirkuk residents paid a hundred bucks to launch a mortar or plant an IED. They were part of a cell of terrorists, thugs and criminals, according to military intelligence reports.

Their list of crimes read like a rap sheet from America's Most Wanted: kidnapping, rapes, prostitution, arms trafficking and planting IEDs.

They were men from their 20s to their 50s: Saddam Hussein loyalists, former members of the Republican Guard, two Sudanese terrorists, and a financier with ties to Syrian intelligence agencies, among others.

With no organized military resisting U.S. forces, insurgents are trying to thwart efforts to establish a new Iraqi government and stabilize the country.

With the first raid complete, Iraqi police lined up against a wall for a head count to make sure everyone was back out of the house.

— Roger Phillips